Item 31 - Proof of [letter] by J. R. Seeley to Henry Sidgwick

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Add. MS c/104/31


Proof of [letter] by J. R. Seeley to Henry Sidgwick


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Refers to a paper he wrote on the proposed reform in the Classical Tripos, in which he urged the introduction of philosophy 'on the ground that the subjects with which philosophy is occupied are far more directly useful in after life than those with which philology is occupied.' Refers to Mr Vansittart's answer to his argument, and claims to feel somewhat hurt at the tone of the latter's sentences. It never occurred to him in writing his paper 'that useful pursuits could be taken to mean lucrative pursuits'; thinks that it is a pity it occurred to Mr Vansittart in reading it.

To clear himself from suspicion he proposes to give 'the desired definition of usefulness in after life', in order to counter his detractor's arguments. Disputes the opinion that he should adopt 'the doctrine of Mr Mozley' in relation to the matter, and puts forward the view that Cambridge studies 'ought to be such as will be useful in after life' and that they are not sufficiently so. Adds however that he does not maintain 'that they ought to be just such studies and no others, as will be most useful in after life'. Contends that the way in which a study can best help a man forward in his occupation is by furnishing him with the general principles which apply to it.'

Applies his theory to the case of the study of theology, referring to the fact that a great number of Cambridge students become clergymen. Suggests that the introduction of Greek philosophy into the Tripos examination would be of benefit to such students. Also refers to the benefit of the study of philosophy for English lawyers. Makes reference to Aristotle, and Plato's Republic, and to a treatise by Rousseau on education. Adds that he does not question that the study of philology has its uses. Quotes 'Mr Mill', who claimed that every sentence analysed 'is a lesson in logic', and regrets that grammar 'is not at present taught very rationally at Cambridge.' Believes that the introduction of Sanskrit into the examination in place of history would ruin it. States that if a third dead language is added to the two difficult ones already required he will not have any objection to the examination as such but will 'hope to see it sink decidedly below the level of the Moral Sciences Examination, as dealing with less important subjects, and deprived of the power of conferring a degreee, as an insufficient test of a high education.'

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